Climatologists help "set the scene" for documentary

  • Published
  • By Mr. Mike Hunsucker and Ms. Melody Higdon
  • Air Force Combat Climatology Center
Dr. Patty Lowe, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a producer for Wisconsin public television called the Air Force Combat Climatology Center with an unusual request. "I'm hoping you can give me a sense of the Korean weather conditions just before dawn on Nov. 5, 1950 near the village of Chonhyon, Korea (northwest of the North Korean Capitol, Pyongyang), not too far from the Chinese border."
She explained further. "We are doing a PBS documentary on Native American contributions to the U.S. military and are telling the story of Mitchell Red Cloud. He was a Ho-Chunk, formerly known as the Winnebago, from Black River Falls, Wisconsin who distinguished himself during the Korean conflict. He won the Medal of Honor for his actions that day and we hope to recreate his heroics on videotape."
Although this was not a typical request for AFCCC, finding an answer for Dr. Lowe demonstrated the flexibility and resources of the organization. She came to AFCCC because the National Climatic Data Center had no records for that period. Korean observations essentially ceased in early 1950. Dr. Lowe needed general weather conditions but specifically wanted details about precipitation, winds, and temperature.
AFCCC's lead meteorological researcher in the Air Force Weather Technical Library, Mr. Gary Swanson, tracked down two documents that were crucial to fulfilling Dr. Lowe's request. One was a synoptic map and the other was a 1956 historical, weather-oriented, document, Weather Effect on Army Operations, Weather in the Korean Conflict. AFCCC resources included assistance from the Modeling and Simulation Division, the Operational Climatology Branch, and the AFWTL.
What was the weather like that morning? The day Mitchell Red Cloud gave his life in the defense of his comrades, the dawn skies were clear, there were light northerly winds, and temperatures were just at freezing.
Cpl. Mitchell Red Cloud, Jr. was born July 2, 1924, in Hatfield, Wis. the year the U.S. Government first conferred citizenship on American Indian people, Red Cloud spent his early years on the family homestead near Hatfield, Wisconsin, a village ten miles from Black River Falls. His great-grandfather, the legendary HoChunk warrior Chief Winneshiek, had fled southern Wisconsin after the Blackhawk War in 1832. He enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1941 and was honorably discharged in 1945. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in Merrilan, Wis. in 1948 and was sent to Korea in 1950. While in the Army, he achieved the rank of Corporal, with Company E, 19th Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division.
When North Korea invaded the South in June of 1950, the newly emerging United Nations Organization, at the urging of the US Government, intervened on the side of the South. Once again, the young warrior from Wisconsin, along with millions of other young men and women, found himself at the front line of a global struggle.
While not terribly unique in the experience of many soldiers during this conflict, the final moments of Corporal Red Cloud's life, the more widely known portion of his epic tale, were certainly heroic.
For his "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty," President Truman posthumously awarded Mitchell the Medal of Honor in March 1951, making him the eighth serviceman to be so honored in the context of the Korean Conflict at that point.
In April, Mitchell's mother Nellie Red Cloud and his brother, Merlin, traveled to Washington D.C. where Omar Bradley presented them with the medal at a Pentagon ceremony.
The citation on his Medal of Honor reads, "Cpl. Red Cloud, Company E, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy. From his position on the point of a ridge immediately in front of the company command post he was the first to detect the approach of the Chinese Communist forces and give the alarm as the enemy charged from a brush-covered area less than 100 feet from him. Springing up he delivered devastating point-blank automatic rifle fire into the advancing enemy. His accurate and intense fire checked this assault and gained time for the company to consolidate its defense. With utter fearlessness he maintained his firing position until severely wounded by enemy fire. Refusing assistance he pulled himself to his feet and wrapping his arm around a tree continued his deadly fire again, until he was fatally wounded. This heroic act stopped the enemy from overrunning his company's position and gained time for reorganization and evacuation of the wounded. Cpl. Red Cloud's dauntless courage and gallant self-sacrifice reflects the highest credit upon himself and upholds the esteemed traditions of the U.S. Army. For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty in Chonghyon, Korea, 5 November 1950."
Additional information obtained from Medal of at and from the Black River Falls School District Web